Imperial China's Last Classical Academies: Social Change in the Lower Yangzi, 1864-1911

Imperial China's Last Classical Academies: Social Change in the Lower Yangzi, 1864-1911

Imperial China's Last Classical Academies: Social Change in the Lower Yangzi, 1864-1911

Imperial China's Last Classical Academies: Social Change in the Lower Yangzi, 1864-1911

Excerpt

The Taiping Revolutionary Movement was suppressed by forces loyal to the Manchu Qing dynasty in 1864. The suppression was a bloodletting, spread out over fourteen years from 1850 to 1864, as violent as the anger directed at the local social elite by the Taiping peasant movement itself. Like the Civil War in the United States, the victory was uncontested in China, but it left the nation a demanding agenda of economic, social, and political reconstruction.

After 1864 national priorities focused upon rebuilding the institutions of the central government. In the period preceding the seismic political shock of defeat by Japan in 1894–95, education was singled out for expansion at the village, county, and provincial levels. In Jiangsu province, for example, where Taiping destruction was heavy, local officials took the initiative in restoring former academies and then in expanding the number of academies as well as public charitable schools. County magistrates, prefects, and subprefects were given credit in official gazetteers for establishing almost all of the new academies. It is clear, however, that gentry contributions were also important in allowing these officials to maintain the lasting endowments in land or the interest-bearing accounts in pawnbrokerbanks used for the annual academy budgets.

Local elite activism in education involved local gentry and expanded in the mid-nineteenth century in part because of the national suppression of the Taiping Revolutionary Movement. Local defense associations had enhanced the power of the local elite in the Lower Yangzi by the end of the Taiping suppression, and the

Okubo Eiko, “Shindai kosetsu chihō no shoin to shakai,” 239–246; Benjamin Elman, “Imperial Politics and Confucian Societies in Late Imperial China,” 392–402; idem, From Philosophy to Philology, 119–130.

Mary Rankin, John K. Fairbank, and Albert Feuerwerker, “Introduction: Perspectives on Modern China’s History,” in The Cambridge History of China, ed. John Fairbank and Albert Feuerwerker, 13:53–59.

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